Band of Susan’s: Out of Your Head Collective at the Windup Space, Jan. 25
I once interviewed Adam Hopkins and Matt Frazao, who curate the constantly changing lineups of improvisers that perform as the Out of Your Head collective at the Windup Space every Tuesday night, and they both singled out pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn as one of the standout players in their repertory. “Everybody likes playing with Susan, and for good reason,” Frazao said. “She’s incredible.” Indeed, Alcorn’s presence alone was reason enough to check out this week’s edition of the series, and the Out of Your Head debut of Lafayette Gilchrist sideman Mike Cerri just sweetened the deal.
Tuesday’s ensemble featuring Alcorn and Cerri was filled out by drummer Ethan Snyder and New York guitarist Dustin Carlson, and every member of the quartet shined at different points throughout the two sets. Cerri’s pocket trumpet of course cut a piercing tone through anything his collaborators played, but his sensitive, restrained approach to the instrument allowed others to take the spotlight. One composition during the first set, however, featured Cerri repeating one melody while the rest of the band swirled around him in a way that was entrancing. Snyder was a particular revelation, at times a powerful force behind the drum set but at others a subtle presence, tapping cymbals and brushing snares while his right foot went crazy with a flurry of kick drum notes.
Still, the best part of Tuesday’s set was Alcorn and Carlson mixing and matching two different styles of guitar playing. Often, Alcorn’s warm bed of pedal steel was the palette across which Carlson would paint harsher or more distinct textures. But at one point I had to watch both guitarists’ hands closely to figure out that it was in fact Carlson playing some lovely, gentle chords, while Alcorn played sharp pings of melody. As always at Out of Your Head, I left the Windup Space with the bittersweet feeling that I had just seen a great, unique performance, and that that particular quartet will probably never play together again.